That Will Make Parents Smile, Too
I could hear one child giggle and say, “I don’t think it’s supposed to do that.” Those are the words that can strike fear in the heart of a parent, especially when that parent is me, loading the washing machine, and knowing that the boys were to be completing a science experiment in the kitchen. That one child was right – it wasn’t supposed to do that. The it was a concoction of split peas blended with meat tenderizer, dish soap, and salt combined with hydrogen peroxide in an effort to demonstrate how strands of DNA would appear. Nice idea.
The problem was that the hydrogen peroxide was actually supposed to be rubbing alcohol. But in the 30 seconds it took me to walk to the laundry room, my boys decided that since the rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide have both been used in our house to clean wounds that they both must be similar enough to be used. Wrong assumption. The result was a volcanic eruption of split pea lava oozing over my counters, and boys calling for “More paper towels!”. Mistakes like these don’t always teach our kids the intended lessons, but the lessons they teach are much longer lasting. My boys will forever know the difference between these two liquids, and they thoroughly understand the bubbly power of hydrogen peroxide.
5 Resources for Hands-On Science Experiments
Science experiments are wonderful ways for kids to get hands on learning about their world, and many of these experiments can be done with the basic ingredients you find in your own home. Whether you have bored kids on a rainy Saturday afternoon, are looking for science fair project inspiration, or homeschool like I do, these science experiments are great ways to get kids thinking about their world and how it works.
1. Science Bob – The name is simple but the science fun is enormous! The kids can make plastic milk or experiment with blobs in a bottle (think lava lamp). The great thing about Science Bob is that the science activities are fun, but there are added questions and ideas to turn the activity into an experiment. Most of the ingredients and pieces of equipment needed for these activities can be found in your home, or are extremely inexpensive to purchase.
2. Weird Science Kids – Bring the cool back to weird and try some of the experiments at Weird Science Kids. One of my favorites is this oil spill experiment where kids can play around with different substances to determine which ones might best clean up oil spills (on miniature scales). This type of timely and environmentally rich science exploration can help build a stronger sense of awareness and responsibility, besides teaching about basic science.
3. National Geographic for Kids – This classic source has some easy and meaningful experiments for kids, and as I learned in a moment of chaos, can prepare adults, too. Last Easter Eve my children and their cousins were coloring Easter eggs when 2 of them started complaining that their eggs were losing their shells (I think the word “disintegrating” was used). I flashed back to this squishy-eggsperiment and added to it the fact that Dad had prepared the egg coloring mixtures (likely without reading all of the directions), and I was able to deduce that the kids were trying to dye their eggs in pure vinegar, instead of the vinegar and water (heavy on the water) combination it was supposed to be. The “eggsperiment” they had conducted weeks before was now in full-force test mode – a teachable moment even if we lost all those eggs.
4. The Science Explorer – Great science projects both online and in their books. I love to use these easy yet profound experiments with my kids, and use both the books and the online ideas. This one has a fun and thought-provoking experiment about whether or not hot and cold water mix. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that these easy activities are great starting points for interesting science fair projects, and their instructions are easy to follow and filled with tips to develop the experiments further.
5. Experiland – This site helps to bring out the mad scientist and even dares your child to try to not have fun. It is geared for elementary students and offers a wide variety of instructions for experiments. Three things to love about this resource: the fun atmosphere, instructions that include prep time and difficulty ratings, and diagrams as needed. The downside is that if you want to learn more about why the experiment worked or didn’t, or how to take the experiment to the next level, you have to purchase the e-books to have access to this supplemental information. However, the e-books are reasonably priced and worth it, especially if you have a science enthusiast or are a homeschooler looking for supplementary curriculum like me.
Science sometimes gets messy – and sometimes there is split-pea-lava exploding in the kitchen. But when we give our kids lots of opportunities for scientific experimentation and exploration, we are helping them stretch their ideas and rub away some of those hindering preconceived notions (like how rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide are about the same thing). And maybe someday the kids will come full circle and use these scientific studies as a launching pad to discover and develop new, organic cleaning supplies for busy moms. Busy moms who have to supervise the cleaning of split-pea-lava.